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Canada’s Political Tsunami

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Canadian politics are bland. Colorless. Even flat-out boring. Right? Think again.

Enter Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new Prime Minister-designate, and son of legendary Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Leading the Liberal Party of Canada to a majority government, Trudeau has promised major changes that will impact a number of key sectors. Borrowing more than a few pages from the successful Obama political playbook – and campaigning on the slogan of bringing “real change” to Ottawa – Canada’s new Prime Minister elect clearly intends to do just that. And drastically. But in more tangible terms, what will it mean for key economic files and initiatives? An initial thumbnail sketch:

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):  While supporting free trade in principle, Trudeau has yet to publicly weigh in on the particulars of the TPP. To date, Justin Trudeau’s only commitment is to hold a public and open debate on the matter once his party becomes privy to the full text of the agreement. The implications for the auto, agriculture, dairy and healthcare sectors will be significant.
  • Environment:  In stark contrast to outgoing Prime Minister Harper, Trudeau has pledged to review Canada’s pipeline environmental assessment processes, invest millions in clean technology, put a price on carbon, and develop a pan-Canadian energy strategy. He will begin his term by attending the upcoming and highly publicized UN Climate Change Conference in Paris – an event Harper has forgone for the majority of his tenure. The new Liberal government has also promised to work in partnership with the U.S. and Mexico to develop an ambitious North American clean energy agreement.
  • Healthcare: The Liberals campaigned on a commitment to health innovation and striking a multi-billion accord with provincial governments. There will likely be implications for healthtech, IT, and seniors-focused companies and interests, to cite only a few examples.
  • Defence:  Trudeau has pledged to cancel Canada’s commitment to purchase new F-35 aircrafts and immediately launch a new competition to replace the country’s aging fighter jets. The new Liberal government maintains the primary mission of Canada’s fighter aircraft should be the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability.
  • Infrastructure: The Liberals promised a multi-billion dollar program, which was a centerpiece of their platform. New federal spending, coupled with commitments by large provincial governments like Ontario, will mean a major economic injection into various regions and large cities across Canada.

Insofar as the North American or global  business community is concerned, most financial market observers are saying there is no great negative or positive economic impact for Canada with the change of government.  One can be certain, however, that the fate of pending trade agreements (TPP, Canada-EU Trade Agreement) will have long term potential.  Will future environmental policies have a negative impact on the economy, or will a green energy push flourish?  Will future innovation, research and development policies impact Canada’s healthcare sector and wider economy, or will the changes be “net neutral”?  Time will tell.

Trudeau’s cabinet will be sworn in on November 4 in Ottawa.  As Canada moves from a Conservative to a Liberal government, the biggest immediate domestic change will be a political move from the right to the centre-left.  But perhaps the most significant shift will be how key North American and global business sectors react accordingly.

One thing is certain: it definitely won’t be boring.

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About the author

Gordon Taylor Lee

Gordon Taylor Lee oversees FleishmanHillard's Ottawa office, bringing extensive policy and communications experience. He also helps lead numerous accounts in FleishmanHillard’s healthcare and financial sectors. Prior to joining the agency, he served as a Principal with Interis Consulting, and held senior-level positions in previous Liberal Party of Canada governments, serving as Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Director of Policy to the Minister of Health. Additionally, Taylor Lee served as an executive level member of Canada’s civil service.

A FleishmanHillard employee.